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"'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'" is a popular song that is sung to congratulate a person on a significant event, such as a promotion, a birthday, a wedding (or playing a major part in a wedding), a retirement, a wedding anniversary, the birth of a child, or the winning of a championship sporting event. The melody originates from the French song "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" ("Marlborough Has Left for the War").
The tune is of French origin and dates at least from the 18th century.'The Oxford Dictionary of Music', 2nd. ed.(revised). Ed. Michael Kennedy:'18thcent. Fr. nursery song. ... It is usually stated that 'Malbrouck' refers to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, but the name is found in medieval literature.' Allegedly it was composed the night after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709. It became a French folk tune and was popularised by Marie Antoinette after she heard one of her maids singing it. The melody became so popular in France that it was used to represent the French defeat in Beethoven's composition 'Wellington's Victory', Op. 91, written in 1813.
The melody also became widely popular in the United Kingdom.'The Times' (London, England), 28 March 1826, p. 2:'The Power of Music'. A visiting foreigner, trying to recall the address of his lodgings in Marlborough Street, hums the tune to a London cabman: he immediately recognises it as 'Malbrook'. By the mid-19th centuryThe song may have featured in an "extravaganza" given at the Princess theatre in London at Easter 1846, during which fairies hold a moonlight meeting: "...the meeting closes with a song of thanks to Robin Goodfellow (Miss Marshall), who had occupied the chair,...and who is assured that "he's a jolly good fellow." "Princess's." 'The Times' [London, England] 14 April 1846: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 October 2012. it was being sung with the words "For he's a jolly good fellow", often at all-male social gatherings.'The Times' reprinted an article from 'Punch' describing a drunken speech given at a (fictional) public meeting. The speech ends: "Zshenlmen, here's all your vehgood healts! I beggapardn here's my honangaln fren's shjolly goo' health! "For he's a jolly good fellow, &c (Chorus by the whole of the company, amid which the right hon. orator tumbled down.)" "The After Dinner Speech at the Improvement Club." 'The Times', [London, England] 23 March 1854: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 October 2012. And "For she's a jolly good fellow", often at all-female social gatherings. By 1862, it was already familiar in America.Review of a piano recital: "As a finale he performed for the first time, a burlesque on the French air, "Marlbrook," better known to the American student of harmony as "He's a jolly good fellow." 'New York Times', 4 October 1862
The British and the American versions of the lyrics differ. "And so say all of us" is typically British,An 1859 version quoted in 'The Times', however, has some 'red-faced' English officers at an Indian entertainment dancing before their host: ...declaring that he was "a right good fellow; he's a jolly good fellow, which nobody dare deny hip, hip, hip, hoorah!" &c.' 'The Times'(London, England), 24 March 1859, p. 9 while "which nobody can deny" is regarded as the American version, but "which nobody can deny" has been used by non-American writers, including Charles Dickens in 'Household Words', Hugh Stowell Brown in 'Lectures to the Men of Liverpool' and James Joyce in 'Finnegans Wake'. (In the short story 'The Dead' from 'Dubliners', Joyce has a version that goes, "For they are jolly gay fellows..." with a refrain between verses of "Unless he tells a lie".) The 1935 American film 'Ruggles of Red Gap', set in rural Washington State, ends with repeated choruses of the song, with the two variations sung alternately. That may have been chosen by the writer or director because, although the singing crowd is almost completely American, they are singing it about a British person.
As with many songs that use gender-specific pronouns, the song can be altered to agree with the gender of the intended recipient.Originally the song was associated with after-dinner drinking by all-male groups and not used for females. In 1856, British officers in the Crimea mistakenly sang it after a toast had been made, in Russian, to the Empress of Russia: "...peals of laughter followed when they all learned the subject of the toast, which was afterwards drunk again with due honour and respect." 'Blackwood's Magazine', vol. 80, October 1856 If the song is being sung to two or more people, it is altered to use plurals.
The last syllable of the third iteration of "For he's a jolly good fellow" is often sung with an exaggerated fermata or pause before going on, making it difficult for groups or crowds to sing the next line in unison. This is evident, for example, when sung as a crowd chant in a football stadium or at a birthday party. Typically the note is extended an additional half measure, though it is acceptable to have no addition or extend the note for a full measure.
* In Spain, it is sometimes sung at birthdays instead of "Happy Birthday to You". This is also the case in America on television and in movies, because Warner/Chappell Music claimed copyright to "Happy Birthday To You" until 2016, while "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" has long been in the public domain.
* In Sweden the lyrics Fr vi har tagit studenten, fr vi har tagit studenten, fr vi har tagit studenten, fy fan vad vi r bra (for we have graduated, for we have graduated, for we have graduated, god damn how good we are) are often sung at the graduation celebrations and parties after graduating from Swedish upper secondary school
* "Nobody" is sometimes replaced by "no one".
* Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album '101 Gang Songs' (1961)
* A children's version called The Bear Went Over the Mountain is a famous campfire song.
In popular culture
* Sung in the 1934 film 'Evergreen' at Harriet's farewell party.
* Played at the end of the 1936 film 'Mr Deeds (Longfellow Deeds) Goes to Town' by Frank Capra.
* Sung in the 1939 film 'Gone With the Wind' at Ashley's birthday party.
* Sung in the 1940 film 'A Chump at Oxford' when the Oxford graduates sing to Stan and Ollie.
* Sung in the 1941 film 'That Hamilton Woma'n at Sir William Hamilton's birthday.
* Sung in the 1941 film 'The Devil and Miss Jones' at the ball at the end of the film.
* Sung in the movie 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' by colonel Nicholson's men after he is punished by Saito.
* Played (in a somewhat varied form) by the band escorting the intended groom (who is carried in a covered litter) at the village wedding in Satyajit Ray's 'The World of Apu'.
* Sung in the movie 'Some Like It Hot'.
* Sung in the 1953 film 'The Band Wagon' for Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) in the final scene.
* Sung in the 1963 episode of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' called "A Surprise Surprise is a Surprise," second season, number 30.
* Sung in the 1966 film 'Grand Prix' in a celebration, after Brian Bedford's character Scott Stoddard wins an F1 race.
* Occasionally quoted (with obvious irony) in the incidental music to the cult TV series 'The Prisoner'.
* Played in the background when Asrani makes his entrance as police officer in the 1975 Indian movie 'Sholay'.
* The 1977 Disney animated feature film 'The Rescuers' featured a variation of the song called "For Penny's a Jolly Good Fellow".
* The "People's Front of Judea" sung it to Brian in the ending scene of 'Monty Python's Life of Brian'.
* The song is sung by officers in the 1954 movie 'The Caine Mutiny'.
* The song is sung to Mrs. Peacock in the second ending of the 1985 film 'Clue'.
* In the 1978 movie 'Grease', the T-Birds sing this to Danny Zuko after he wins the race at Thunder Road.
* The song is sung to Benjamin Sisko in congratulations of his promotion to captain in the 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' episode "The Adversary".
* A Klingon-language version is sung to Lieutenant Worf for his birthday during the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' episode "Parallels".
* Eric Matthews sung the different version in an episode of 'Boy Meets World'.
* Fans of Arsenal F.C. have a variation called "Jolly Good Vela", named after fan-favorite Carlos Vela.
* In the 2009 film 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra', the character Zartan (played by Arnold Vosloo) has the habit of whistling the song.
* In the 1975 episode "Disturbing the Peace" of Ronnie Barker's TV show 'Porridge', every inmate sings the song on the return of Mr. Mackay.
* In the episode "The Good Sport" of the animated TV series 'Arthur', Francine starts singing the song to Jenna because Jenna won Athlete of the Year Award. The other students in Francine's class uncomfortably join in.
* A variation of the song called "For He's a Jolly Good Rookie" is used in the 'SpongeBob SquarePants' episode called "Fun".
* In the 2011 video game 'Portal 2', the sinister AI villain, GLaDOS is sarcastically humming the song for the player after completing a puzzle.
* In 'The Godfather Part II'
* In 'Boardwalk Empire', season 1.
* In 'Seinfeld', season 9, episode 18, 'The Frogger'
* In 'Mad Men', season 1, episode 3.
* In 'Gossip Girl', season 2.
* In 'The Hour', season 1, episode 4.
* In 'Glee', season 1, episode 3
* In the 2008 film '21'.
* In the 2009 film 'John Rabe'.
* The song is sung by Big Daddy's grandchildren in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' (1958).
* In Brazil, a variation of the song was used as a jingle in the advertisement of Brazilian beer called Kaiser, produced by beverage company FEMSA. The jingle's lyric is "Kaiser is a greatest beer, which nobody can deny" (in Portuguese: "A Kaiser uma grande cerveja, ningum pode negar").
* In the 2009 'iCarly' episode "iMake Sam Girlier", the song is sung after a character is prevented from singing "Happy Birthday to You" because of copyright.
* In 'The Big Bang Theory', season 5, episode 22.
* In 'Peppa Pig', season 4, episode 26.
* In 'Blue Bloods', season 3, episode 5.
* In 'Barney and the Backyard Gang', episode 15
* In 'Black Mirror', season 4, episode 1, 'USS Callister'
* In 'King of the Hill', season 9, episode 15
* In 'Batman', season 2, episode 17 'Hizzoner the Penguin' a variation of the song called "For He's a Jolly Good Penguin" is used.
* In Donald's Opera Box, the version is supposedly to be "For He's a Jolly Good Quacker!" in the end of the opera called 'Il Trovatore'.
* In Dawn of the Croods, the lyrics changed into "For She's a Bloodthirsty Cavewoman" on Ugga's surprise birthday party.
* In 'Columbo', season 10, episode 5 - 'No Time to Die (Columbo)'
* In 2017 USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage.
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